Lucky Soul - Manchester Night and Day

Inutterably special and admirably unfashionable, Lucky Soul thrill me in ways that no other band currently can. Debut album, 'The Great Unwanted', mixes a deep love and respect for its musical inspiration - 60s-tinged girl group soul - with a defiantly indie guitar band sensibility. (Don't read too much into that - proper indie pop, I mean. Pulp, The Primitives, Saint Etienne, you know. Not your Snow Patrol, your NME poster boys, your bland lad-rock festival fodder.) Tonight, in front of a mere hundred or so devotees, they kick the living daylights out of this sumptious material. Opening with 'My Brittle Heart' and then straight into current single 'One Kiss Don't Make a Summer', you find yourself thinking 'Whoa - you've thrown those in already ?' (The perennial problem for bands lacking filler.) And so it goes.

The band, lithesome on record, pack live clout. Ali Howard, Carnaby Street bob, Bebo styling, sings with a husky tremor that belies her pint-size. She's unfashionably note-perfect throughout; call me old-fashioned but I do like that on occasion. The playing is more than worthy of the demands of the music. My gig-going companion, hearing them for the first time tonight, nods sagely. "Tight", he confirms. Oh yes. And then some. (Later, he offers wise and proper commendation for the dual guitars of group svengali and major domo Andrew Laidlaw and guitarist Ivor Sims.)

Playing up a storm, they moan (not unreasonably) about the stifling heat. "I thought it was supposed to be cold, wet and miserable in Manchester ?" says Laidlaw. A pause. Then the wag behind me : "It's still miserable." As if in protest, they offer up a a stunning blast of Martha and the Vandellas' '(Love is Like A) Heatwave'. Smart choice, beautifully delivered. They run through their semi-epic album centre-piece 'The Great Unwanted'. With a nod to Charlie Rich's 'Feel Like Going Home', sorrowful ballad 'Baby I'm Broke' burns, Howard stunning on this one, so much so that Laidlaw applauds too. Bending down to grab a drink, his singer doesn't even notice. Is that poignant ? I'd say so.

We hurtle towards the end of the set. Bereft of the irksome between-song tuning sessions that seem to be killing the momentum of so many gigs these days, and also free of the similarly irritating matey chatting and nodding during songs (is it just me ?), this is the most thrilling and committed live performance I've witnessed this year. They exit after 45 minutes with the Stax rush of 'Gotta Get Out of Town'. Drowning in stone cold classics already, they manage to pass over the likes of album high spots 'It's Yours' and 'My Darling, Anything'. For once I'm nowhere near sated. Okay, huddled in front of the postage stamp stage, with atmosphere curving upwards from an initial Polite to a closing Encouragingly Enthusiastic, hardly the event of the year. But, based on onstage events, totally untroubled by the competition. If they'd have sauntered back on and played five or six encores, the chances are I'd have wiped my mouth, looked up hungrily and gone : "Any more ?"

(Photo from Camden Barfly 2006 kindly provided by CD Times photographer Lorne Thomson)

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